Special Economic Session Must Yield Results

Legislative column by Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
August 15, 2008

When the state Legislature passed the 2008-09 budget in May, I warned that because revenues decline during times of economic uncertainty, the funds would not be there to support such an extravagant spending plan. Sadly, my prediction came true and the Governor was forced to call a special economic session of the Legislature to cut back on funds promised to state agencies, local governments and various other organizations.

We must make tough decisions and rein in state spending. Governor David Paterson is pushing for a $1 billion spending cut, yet his proposed cuts, thus far, only total $600 million to Medicaid, pork projects and aid to local governments. Paterson is looking into other pools of funds, including education and health care, for significant cuts. Before we slash vital services, we should first cut back on wasteful government spending, such as Medicaid fraud, and unnecessary spending, such as the Lieutenant Governor’s office when our state doesn’t even have a Lieutenant Governor. On Tuesday, the Assembly will debate and vote on new spending legislation to sustain us through next year’s budget cycle.

While the Legislature scales back state spending, we must be careful not to pass any additional burden on the already overwhelmed taxpayers of this state. Too many people, at an alarming rate, are fleeing this state in search of less expensive places to live and work. We need to seize the opportunity now and pass legislation that will make New York affordable again.

Chief among these reforms must be legislation that will cap property taxes at the rate of inflation or 120 percent of the consumer price index, whichever is lower. Introduced by the Assembly Minority Conference, adopted by Governor Paterson at the urging of a special commission, and passed in the state Senate on August 8, this legislation is ready to come before the Assembly for action. I will continue to push Speaker Sheldon Silver and his Majority Conference to end the suffering of upstate families and allow this bill to pass in the Assembly.

These tough economic times call for tough decisions. Lawmakers are not elected to take the easy path, even in election years; they must take the more arduous path and do what is right. When we come back to the Assembly chamber, we must rein in state spending. We also should look at reducing our state debt and passing meaningful reforms that put more money back into household budgets. By doing so, we can turn the economy around and attract more businesses and families to upstate New York.

To discuss state-related issues, please contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.